2020's Top Trends in Sunscreen for Surfers

Posted by James Marshall on

Its the new year, and now that social media has finally calmed down from all of the 'Top 100 posts of 2019' everyone starts to think about the year ahead, including yours truly. With this in mind, this post includes a bit of crystal ball gazing about what will (might) be topical in the sunscreen industry in the year ahead and what it means for you as a consumer and surfer. Read on for a few predictions and what to look out for, as well as some further reading from the news.

Chemical sunscreens entering the bloodstream

2020 kicked off with a bang when the FDA announced what many in the industry had long believed, that after a single use seven sunscreen chemicals can enter the bloodstream in doses that exceed safety thresholds. That is insane - the USA's Food and Drug regulator publicly acknowledging the dangers of chemical sunscreen most commonly and widely used entering the human bloodstream.

"What is most alarming about these findings is that chemicals are absorbing into the body in significant amounts and the ingredients have not been fully tested for safety," - Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist

What to look for? Buy mineral based sunscreens with active ingredients like zinc or titanium dioxide (preferably non-nano particle). Beware of Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Homosalate, Octisalate, and Octinoxate which were highlighted in the announcement.

How does SETT stack up? SETT uses non-nano zinc as its active ingredient in our sun protection products which not only is required for normal healthy human function, but also sits on top of the skin as a physical barrier. 

For more information, check out CNN's article https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/21/health/sunscreen-dangers-chemicals-bloodstream-wellness/index.html

Chemical sunscreens damaging marine life goes mainstream

In 2019, all of the news about sunscreen and damage to marine environments went to a whole new level, and in 2020 that mainstream knowledge is only going to continue. While some regions have started making moves (including Hawaii and Mexico) it took the small Pacific Island nation of Palau to be the first to implement bans on some of these chemicals. 

"We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life." - Palau President Tommy Remengesau

What to look for? Palau has listed 10 ingredients that will be banned due to their toxicity. Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), Ethyl paraben, Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate), Butyl paraben, Octocrylene, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor, Benzyl paraben, Triclosan, Methyl paraben, Phenoxyethanol. Again, Zinc and Titanium are the best mineral based alternatives to use.

How does SETT stack up? SETT uses non-nano zinc as its active ingredient in our sun protection products.


For more information, check out BBC's article https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50963080

Where is my sunscreen made?

Not all sunscreens are created equal, and what meets the standards of one regulator may not meet the standards of another.  At a high level, Australia is regarded as the strictest for SPF efficacy and the EU strictest for which other ingredients can be used (think emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrances and so on). It matters to me as the founder of a sunscreen company to know I have a good product by global standards, but it seems that more and more consumers are taking note too.

What to look for? Products made in Australia or the EU.

How does SETT stack up? SETT is produced in Australia, to meet American (FDA) and EU standards. For example, SETT doesn't use harmful artificial preservatives which are common in other sunscreens, and can cause nasty reactions.

For more information check out The Guardian's article https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/jan/20/slip-slop-what-why-putting-on-sunscreen-suddenly-seems-complicated


Sunscreen that doesn't protect from the sun?

Almost half of sunscreens tested by Consumer New Zealand didn't meet the protection levels they claim. al-most-half! That is unbelievable and frankly feels criminal. Whats worse is the companies who dance around the fringes of testing by not calling themselves a sunscreen and not having an SPF rating (or blatantly breaking the law by claiming and SPF without testing to prove it) which is becoming increasingly common in brands that promote themselves as being natural and home made. When it comes to a product that exists to prevent skin cancer, you want to be sure it has been tested to do the job you need it to.


What to look for? It goes without saying to look for a high SPF (30+), Broad Spectrum protection and Water Resistance labels. In addition, read reviews from independent third parties like consumer groups, or customer reviews online to ensure testers and users are satisfied with the products.

How does SETT stack up? SETT's sunscreen is produced in an ISO accredited factory in Australia to meet Australian, American (FDA) and EU standards. There is testing and documentation in place to evidence the SPF ratings and efficacy, water resistance, product stability and preservative checks and other skincare requirements.

For more information, check out Stuff's https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/117585631/consumer-nz-says-nine-out-of-20-sunscreens-dont-provide-protection-they-claim

Reading the instructions (and following them)

Believe it or not, we aren't as good as we think at following the rules...Noticed how there used to be SPF 60, 80 or even 90 sunscreen but there isn't anymore? Turns out, that people thought it was so strong they didn't use enough and got burnt more often. Go figure...Read the label, and follow instructions, some of which are required by law in places like Australia.

"Using sunscreen often increased the risk of sunburn because people didn't use it correctly - which was called the sunscreen paradox" - Otago University sunscreen researcher Geri McLeod

What to look for? The label's instructions - read it, and follow it.

How does SETT stack up? SETT's instructions follow the Australian guidelines. "Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. Shake tube then apply in generous amounts all over exposed areas 20 minutes before exposure. Reapply every two hours or more often when swimming, sweating and towelling."

For more information, check out this article https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/teach-me/117624939/teen-rower-seriously-sunburnt-despite-using-spf50-sunscreen   and  https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/teach-me/117708750/sunscreen-is-not-enough-to-protect-from-sunburn-in-new-zealand--researcher 

What do you think? Is this news to you, or are there other themes that will emerge? The landscape is always changing as science learns more, so I would love to hear what else you are hearing to keep at the forefront of what is happening.

See you out there,

James (Mammoth) Marshall

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